From right: Tom Iino, Leslie Ito, Yuko Kaifu, Consul General Harry Horinouchi, Mickey Kantor, Yoshiki and Doug Erber toast Japan House at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City. (JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo)
From right: Tom Iino, Leslie Ito, Yuko Kaifu, Consul General Harry Horinouchi, Mickey Kantor, Yoshiki and Doug Erber toast Japan House at the InterContinental Hotel in Century City. (Photos by JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo)

By JORDAN IKEDA, Rafu Staff Writer

Authenticity is a concept best described in the Japanese phrase dokuji sei.

Quite literally, the real deal.

When blending dokuji sei with honmono (originality), the confluence of these two concepts sets the foundation of Japan House and all that it aspires to be and represent.

Yuko Kaifu, inaugural president of Japan House Los Angeles.

Authentic, original Japan.

In the summer of 2014, Japan’s Foreign Ministry announced the Japan House project as a public diplomacy initiative to strengthen international ties and has spent the last 20 months developing it in Tokyo. Three Japan Houses will be built around the world at three carefully selected locations: London, Sao Paulo, and Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Japan House will open in the summer of 2017 residing on the second and fifth floors of the Hollywood & Highland complex.

On March 10 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Century City, the framework of the Japan House project was introduced for the first time at the first of several pre-opening events. Over 200 guests were in attendance including influencers, stakeholders, news media, and supporters of U.S. Japan relations.

Rock star Yoshiki, special advisor to Japan House.

“We are going to showcase anything and everything good about Japan. Real Japan. Authentic Japan,” said Yuko Kaifu, the inaugural president of Japan House Los Angeles. “Ranging from art, culture, to business, science and technology, tourism, entertainment, film, music, and food… Japan House will be a truly engaging and fascinating place for Americans to come and find Japan, yet to be known and discovered.”

Before taking on the Japan House project, Kaifu worked at Japan’s Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, Union Bank, and the Japanese American National Museum. Her breadth of experience and her deep ties to both Japan and L.A, made her an ideal candidate to lead the initiative.

Kaifu will be working closely with Consul General of Japan Harry Horinouchi as well as collaborating with both Japanese and American individuals and organizations to realize the Japan House project.

Japanese artists and designers have already been assembled to create the look and feel of the house. They include Kohei Nawa, Junji Tanigawa, Ryu Kosaka, Shujiro Kusumoto, and Masaki Yokokawa. Japan House and everything in it will be minimalist and traditional and will highlight the in between spaces, the holistic nature of Japanese culture, and a focalization on the Japanese spirit of creation.

Japan House Steering Committee members used two sake barrels for the kagami-biraki ceremony.

“Having lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, I am happy to see how Japanese food, art and culture has grown to greater prominence in this city,” Yoshiki of X-Japan explained at the event. “As an artist, I hope to see Japan House expand the reach of Japanese culture even further and inspire fellow artists around the world.”

Yoshiki, one of Japan’s most beloved and well-known musicians, will serve as a special advisor to Japan House.

Kaifu will also be working with the Japan House Steering Committee, which consists of: former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Mickey Kantor, board member, Pacific Council on International Policy; Peter O’Malley, former president, Los Angeles Dodgers; Gil Garcetti, UNESCO-IHE cultural ambassador; Gary Jacobs, Board of Governors, American Jewish Committee; Thomas Iino, chairman of the board, Pacific Commerce Bank; Mónica Gil, senior vice president and general manager, Nielsen; Beth Marlis, chairman of the board, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce; Douglas Erber, president, Japan America Society of Southern California; Leslie Ito, president and CEO, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center; Yoshio Aoki, advisor, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California; and Hideo Miyake, president, Japan Business Association of Southern California.

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